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Bruno Bettelheim, born in 1903, is a recognized psychologist who helped treat psychologically affected children when others could not manage. At the age of 14, he met Freud. He also interacted with Ann Freud at an early age. This significantly helped him to develop interest in studying the behavior of children. Mostly he was interested in autism. Ann Freud brought him a girl who suffered from psychological disorders and he struggled to treat her. Bruno was later arrested by the Nazis and taken to court. This did not hinder him from pursuing his ambitions. He could constantly examine his life, that of his fellow prisoners and the guards. While he was at the prison for seven years, his studies helped him to understand the behaviors of children. The author understood how psychologically disturbed children could be treated.

He continued with the work of assisting the children in recovering from psychosis. Later he became the director in Orthogenic School in the University of Chicago and this is where his focus was deeply rooted. His main focus was to assist psychopaths, sociopaths and others. His work was basically aimed at caring for the children but later it included the mothers.

Bruno Bettelheim discusses in his article The Importance of Play an insightful study on children that attempts to depict the psychological significance of play upon the growth and development of the young children’s mind.

Bruno Bettelheim explains an in-depth significance of play during childhood. His main contentions are that the children’s play should never be taken for granted. It should not be assumed that they are young to decide for themselves in terms of what activity they would like to be involved in and what play they mostly engage in. While parents and other adults highly determines the kind of play children are involved in, the author contends that adult is responsible for the  process of maturity  which starts to develop as soon as the  child  chooses the kind of play that he/she wants to engage in (Bruno Bettelheim, p.28). He opposes the parents who normally impose rules and games that their children play. From his point of view, play is an activity characterized by personally imposed rules which could be changed at will.

Though many parents can view child’ play as merely fantasy, it has gotten an immense implication in many dimensions including those of the social, cognitive and emotional. Bruno Bettelheim considers there is a great difference that exists between playing and playing games. His main argument is the play does not only refer to movement ‘ones elbows but also one’s mind’ (Bruno Bettelheim, p.35). The author holds an opinion that the play that leads to a healthy development is the one where children constantly develop mentally through ‘toying with ideas’ (Bruno Bettelheim p.36). Freud views play as the ‘royal road’ to the unconscious while Bruno sees play as the ‘royal road’ to understanding the inner world of children (Bruno Bettelheim, p.36). Generally, children use play as an avenue to learn and understand the world around them.

What do children learn or gain from the act of playing?

The freewill of engaging in fantasy and the absence of any goals outside the activities that the children engage in express a child’s inner nature which is a vital aspect in a healthy development. Furthermore, any form of playing embargo imposed on them may act to reduce their imaginative capacity (Clarke, p.8). For instance, play during childhood is an important springboard based upon which creativity especially in adulthood. Denial of free choice of play therefore will create an invisible barrier (glass-ceiling) towards the vertical mobility of children in creative activities such as musicians, artists, inventors and others.

Children normally believe that watching something means touching it. They may be satisfied by seeing a simple object rather than being satisfied with the programs they may watch in a television. The unconscious touching of objects by the children culminates into the learning process as they are able to know near and far objects which develop later into the knowledge of what can be attained and what cannot be attained.

According to Freud, cultural and psychological advancements are achieved through-the play. For example, a child knows how to express himself/herself. In addition, complex psychological processes can be solved through the play. Children’s perception about the world is seen through the play. Although most of the time they may not understand the meaning of activities they engage in and the fact that they may not be able to express themselves, the play normally shows their inner attitudes, problems, desire and anxieties.

Play to a great extent acts as a way of assimilating the children into the social world. They can practice being good carpenters, masons, caring mothers or fathers. At the age of five, the play becomes advanced and the children get involved in role play where they assume the roles of the people that they admire or those that they consider as their role models. Relationships at this stage are very important.

What does play reveal about a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development?

A child’s cognitive development according to Jean Piaget constitutes good bases in the process of socialization. While being involved in playing games, the child learns the rules of the game as well as controlling him/herself from domination to the others.However; self control is not a quick-fix activity. The child will learn it over a long period of time. Those who try to change the rules of the game soon find that the game breaks down. That not following the laws will lead to the creation of social disorder and mayhem.  Therefore, they learn how to adhere to the stipulated rules and regulations.

During the games that children play, they normally waste a lot of time discussing which game to play, the group size as well as the general rules of the game (Brown, Mac & Freeman, p.260). Such negotiations might affect children’s games, thus they have little time to play the game. This makes the children acquire the ability to reason and to judge what is appropriate or not. They also learn how consensus is reached, judging what is appropriate and what is not. If adults therefore refrain from determining the kind of games that the children should play, then they develop mastery of skills involved in playing the game and this tends to assist them in critical decision making in the future.

Children, therefore learn and internalize cognitive, social and emotional development as they interact during the games (Clarke, p.15). These internalized values and principles are the ones that guide them in solving problems in the future, good interpersonal relationships, as well as self-control. This to a greater extent reveals that these factors are nurtured during the process of growing of an individual.

In a nutshell, play in a childhood has a far reaching impact not only on the individual but also on the society. The process of social and cognitive development in a child is such a critical process that the parents or other caretakers ought to consider in making certain decisions. Children ought to be left to make their own decisions pertaining which games they want to play. This is what contributes to effective development. The games that children normally involve in should not only be taken for competition purposes but have meanings attached to them with a lot of implications for a healthy child’s growth.

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